The Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

Yes, they’re interesting but also confused, misleading and very dangerous.

Consider. The war rages in Iraq, our military are being injured and killed; Muslim extremists continue their evil, including downing two Russian passenger jets killing some 90 people; an al-Qaida operative tells Canadian investigators that an Afghanistan-trained Canadian terrorist brought down American Airlines flight 587 in New York three years ago; terrorist warnings continue in our country – the latest for Veterans Administration hospitals. All this and more!

Interesting times, indeed. And amid all this, we’re dealing with a presidential campaign fraught with meaning and import not only for the next term, but for years to come.

So what does John Kerry, the presidential challenger, focus on to present himself to the American voters and ask for their vote? Vietnam! Not specifically the war, but his own military experience and specifically, his heroics in that war. Perhaps I should say, “alleged” heroics, given the firefight that’s erupted as a result of Kerry introducing himself militarily at the convention as being present and ready to serve.

It might have looked good on paper and perhaps even sounded good in rehearsal. It certainly played well at the convention where every move, image and syllable is scripted. However, the drama backfired in the real world when it became clear that the man who for 30 years presented himself as anti-war and vehement anti-war objector had morphed into someone selling himself as a capable, willing, military man qualified to be a war president.

Yes, we will be electing a war president. We are at war. Muslim terrorist extremists are the enemy. They’ve already killed thousands of innocent American civilians, to say nothing of our military who’ve given their lives to defeat an enemy who not only wants us dead but wants to convert anyone left and turn the country into an Islamic stronghold.

Like it or not, that’s what we’re up against. And John Kerry says he’s the guy for the job. He was a military man. He was in battle. He was wounded and decorated. Those are his stated qualifications.

Uh. Maybe not.

He says nothing about his four terms as senator from Massachusetts. It’s probably just as well, since he’s sponsored no major legislation – no such thing as a “Kerry Bill” in that resume, and there’s no mention of all the pro-military issues he voted against.

His rhetoric is just that. Talk. He claims he’ll fight a more sensitive war – whatever that means. He is for, in no particular order: health care, education, care for elderly, education, no tax cuts, more jobs, a better economy and lower credit card interest rates!

He’s also on the side of Mom and apple pie.

Kerry’s heavy on promises but light on details, as in specifically how he’ll accomplish any of it.

But it appears only one issue has caught the eye and minds of voters. Vietnam. That’s bad news for Kerry. The latest Gallup poll shows his unfavorable rating at 40 percent, the highest ever, and it’s been increasing every week. Winning campaigns are not made of such numbers.

When Kerry raised the issue of his experiences in Vietnam, I believe he thought he’d capture the hearts and minds of the aging, activist generation who lived through those years, caused much of the tumult, forced media to take sides and ultimately disgraced itself in its treatment of our military when they returned home. Being spat upon is a memory not easily forgotten.

Kerry became an activist joining anti-war groups and tossed medals over the White House fence during anti-war demonstrations. He testified in Washington and spoke on national TV about atrocities he claimed to have participated in during that war.

But Kerry misjudged. He banked on the residual anger over Vietnam (and the not-so-subtle attempt to equate it to Iraq) to carry him to victory. He didn’t count on the fact that thousands of Vietnam vets did not become turncoats to their uniform and that there are hundreds who served with Kerry and remember what he did – and did not do.

Judging by the reaction to the book “Unfit to Command” and the public statements of the group “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” a good number of the American voting public are having second thoughts about Kerry’s claimed heroics.

Questions are being asked about his four months in country, the circumstances of the three Purple Hearts and the Silver Star, the rapid request to return stateside and Kerry’s peculiar habit of filming and recording himself in military circumstances – among others.

The people who were on duty with Kerry remember a different John Kerry than the public image. There are several hundred of them, and the consistency of their stories only strengthens the questions raised in interviews and commercials.

Rather than face them, respond to the charges and clear up the issues, Kerry goes on the offensive. They’re labeled a smear, the president is condemned for not denouncing the commercials, Kerry threatens to sue TV stations airing the commercials and tried to stop the book publication.

Methinks he objects too much. Someone should remind John Kerry of the Shakespeare line, “Truth will win out.”

It’s not a pretty sight.

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